I have always liked the character Jiminy Cricket, who is the fictional character that served as Pinocchio’s official conscience. I think we all sometimes desire a soundboard, a personal helper who can guide us in making the right decisions both personally and at work.
For two very valuable reasons, I don’t think there has been a more important time for organizations to develop a conscience and to consider the decisions they make.
1.) Short-termism; in many cases organizations make decisions for short-term gains without considering the long-term consequences. This is especially prevalent in the way that organizations manage their relationships with their clients. Too often decisions are made which hold the best interests of the company above that of the client. This may provide short-term revenue benefit but it erodes trust and reduces the longer-term opportunity that is available.
2.) Social purpose; corporate transparency is now changing the way that consumers think about companies. Consumers are now taking an interest in the social responsibility of the organization from which they are buying. Companies that put shareholder return above the needs of society as a whole are slowly being discarded by consumers who are putting community needs above their own individual needs.
As a marketer I believe that we have a fundamental role to act as the Jiminy Cricket of the organization. We need to help the organization make decisions that best serve the interests of its clients / customers as well as society as a whole rather than putting the emphasis on short-term revenue gains. We need to help companies see the longer-term vision and the road ahead.
There was a great article by Matthew Bishop on this topic that is well worth the read.
Following on from Mathew’s viewpoint, I like to think that the essence of the brand promise has gone from a product promise to an consumer promise and is now leading to a social promise. In my mind, successful brands of the future will be those that convey and live by a set of social ideals that resonate with the savvy, conscientious and informed consumers of today.
As Marc Benioff of Salesforce said at a recent event, the one thing that he is most proud of is the creation of the 1/1/1 salesforce.com Foundation. One day not only can he be proud of this as a great social contribution but it will also be a major factor in the continuing success of the company.